Is Joe Adams the best ever receiver from central Arkansas?

He’s flash, he’s dash, he’s sizzle, smoke and more.

Joe Adams, the consummate Razorback receiver and big-play Poobah seems to have it all. The quicksilver senior accelerates into this season coming off his best year yet, punctuated by a 9-catch performance against Ohio State in January’s Sugar Bowl that ties for fourth-most in UA history. With five career 100-yard games under his belt, also fourth all-time, he will likely capture a few career records this season. Don’t forget about his proficient punt returns, either. With an average of 15.56 yards, Adams finished second in the SEC last season.

As good as Adams is, does he rank as the best ever from central Arkansas?

Warning: when wading into such all-time debates, one risks getting lost in a forest of parameters (e.g. What exactly is central Arkansas? We talking wide receivers only?).

Those are questions to tackled soon enough. But first the fun part. Below are some top candidates for this title, with experts’ input.

For rare photos of these guys circa high school, check this original version published in Sync magazine.

Joe Adams

– 5-11, 175 pounds

– As a high school sophomore, scored eight TDs as quarterback and receiver at Parkview. Transferred to Central Arkansas Christian, and rushed 75 times for 857 yards and 14 TDs as a junior. He caught 29 passes for 633 yards and nine TDs. As a senior, he caught 33 passes for 770 yards and scored a total of 25 TDs. ranked him as the No. 2 prospect in Arkansas; tabbed him as the nation’s No. 8 cornerback.

Wally Hall, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor: “Joe came back from a stroke as a sophomore [in college]. His mental toughness is off the charts. He’s quick, elusive, got running back eyes …. if you’re going strictly with receivers, Joe’s a cut above.” projects Adams as the 21st-best receiver in the 2012 NFL Draft, 16 spots behind Arkansas teammate Greg Childs.

Derek Russell

– 6-1, 180 pounds

– A track and football superstar at Little Rock Central in the mid 1980s, the hyperversatile Russell’s exploits are the stuff of legend. In the first hurdles event of his life, he set the state’s overall 110-meter high hurdles mark with a 13.4 clocking. That record still stands. As a junior, he caught 20 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns, but Central’s coaches moved him to tailback his senior season to spearhead their I-formation attack. He racked up 723 yards on 131 carries and 298 yards on 16 catches for nine total touchdowns, and led Central to a state championship.

Bernie Cox, LR Central High football coach of 35 years : “Because of foot speed, strength and what they ended up accomplishing in college and the pros, Derek Russell and Keith Jackson are in there close to the top.”

Russell became possibly the most elusive receiver in Razorback history. As a freshman, he averaged 18.6 yards per catch and set a UA single season record by upping that to 26.4 yards as a sophomore. His production dipped as a junior (17 catches), but he finished strong as a senior, snagging 43 passes for 897 yards and eight touchdowns.

Russell played seven seasons in the NFL. His best was with Denver in 1993, when he finished ninth in the league with a 16.3 yards per reception average.

Brendan Cook

-6-1, 180 pounds

-The name, forgotten by many, conjures thoughts of what might have been. As a junior at Little Rock Catholic High School, Cook caught 27 passes for 456 yards. As a senior, he caught 34 passes for 786 yards and earned Super Prep and Street & Smith’s All-America honors. Cook chose Arkansas over Notre Dame, but early in college struggled through personal issues and injuries. As a redshirt freshman in 1990, he caught one pass – a 16-yarder against SMU. In January 1991, he was found dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Robert Farrell

-The 6-4 wideout burst into the state spotlight in 1974, when he gained nearly 160 yards in a highly anticipated matchup against #1 Parkview at Quigley Stadium, Bernie Cox said. Although Central lost that game in front of more than 10,000 people, Farrell’s established a reputation that helped garner Parade All-America honors a year later.

Wadie Moore, longtime Arkansas Gazette prep sports editor: “Probably the slowest guy of all, but he had great hands. He never dropped it.” (n.b. In college, Farrell ran a 4.6 40-yard dash)

Wally Hall: “A great possession receiver, great hops, great hands.”
As a Razorback, Farrell saved his best for last. An all-SWC selection as a senior, he snared 21 passes for 401 yards. A pivotal TD catch against Baylor in the 1979 homecoming game helped propel Arkansas toward the 1980 Sugar Bowl. After failing to make the Los Angeles Rams, Farrell briefly worked as a grad assistant under Arkansas coach Lou Holtz.
In an upcoming post, I’ll examine the merits of other top candidates for this position. Guys like Oklahoma’s Keith Jackson, SMU’s Emanuel Tolbert, LSU’s Ken Kavanaugh and Alabama’s Don Hutson (Hutson is for those of you who think Pine Bluff is central Arkansas).
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